Gwinnett school board member fined for campaign finance violation

Tarece Johnson is sworn into the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Dec 17, 2020.  (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)
Tarece Johnson is sworn into the Gwinnett County Board of Education on Dec 17, 2020. (Jenni Girtman for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Credit: Jenni Girtman

Tarece Johnson, a newcomer elected in November to the Gwinnett County Board of Education, says she will pay a $1,000 fine to settle a complaint that she violated state campaign finance law.

Johnson is accused of taking campaign donations totaling more than $1,800 before she filed a declaration of intention to accept campaign contributions. She described it as an inadvertent mistake.

On Thursday, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission unanimously approved a consent order that imposes the fine.

Johnson, a first-time political candidate, said she filed a declaration of intention to run for state Senate before deciding to run for school board instead. She said she didn’t realize the form was specific to the office she was seeking.

Johnson’s campaign treasurer caught the error and she re-filed in May, after she’d loaned her campaign $1,500 and accepted $300 in outside contributions, including one from Board Chair Everton Blair.

“This is a very simple and common error,” Johnson said. “I take responsibility for making the error. ... It’s not taking away my focus on the children and it never will.”

County resident David L. Witham filed a complaint Oct. 28 alleging Johnson violated the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act, which says candidates cannot accept contributions until they file a declaration of intention to do so.

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